Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Break

Just so you know... I'll be offline for a winter break. ChipperMuse madness returns in a week...

Friday, January 28, 2011

What's New in Writing

Isn't it cool when you accomplish something? I have to say, I'm proud of myself. I entered two writing contests this week, which is something I've never done before. One of the pieces is inspirational, and I've already received great feedback from people who have read it. Apparently, when I distill some minor hell I've been through and find a way to laugh about it, it provides encouragement and insight to other people. Or at least, this piece does that. That's a pretty cool thing, I have to say. And it just goes to show, when you step out to do something you haven't done, or when you accomplish a goal you've set for yourself, there's a reward for you in the experience somewhere. So whatever you do...writing, art, parenting, whatever... I say, Go for it! Press toward that goal. And look for the prize. It's waiting for you and it belongs to you. Take it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Fun With Headlines

Oh, MSNBC, how I love you. You give me fodder for my blog all the time. Back by popular demand, it's another More Fun With Headlines.

Headline:  Godzilla-like creature nabbed in California town
This headline is a letdown in a lot of ways. Godzilla is a raging menace that can't be stopped! How can you "nab" him? A Godzilla-like creature should be huge. I mean, HUGE. The creature referred to is a monitor lizard. Long, yes. HUGE? No. And also, any reference to Godzilla and California should also mention Cloverfield 2, by law or something, right?

Headline:  Lawsuit asks Taco Bell, "Where's the beef?"
Proving that an oversued 80s commercial tagline will never, never ever die...

Headline:  California girls hospitalized after eating pot cookie
I didn't know you could grow pot cookies... Besides, cookies make you fat! And that's the real problem, isn't it? Not the drugs...but the calories.

Headline:  Steven Tyler's daughter, "He's saving Idol"
Proving that all daughters have overblown expectations for their fathers

Ok, gotta go. It's a crazy day. Ciao, baby!

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Today's Recommendation: Filmspotting

I've been a fan of Filmspotting since its early days. It began humbly...a simple, unassuming podcast recorded weekly by two teenage kids in a little basement, hunched over their mac & cheese. Or is that Wayne's World?

I'm teasing! But I think the Filmspotting boys would get a chuckle out of this joke. You see, they definitely know their films, so I'm sure they've seen Wayne's World. (At  least, I hope so!) And they did start out humbly. They were probably a tad older than their teens when they started, but let's not talk about age. (Because I'm sure I'm older than they are.)

Since 2005, Filmspotting has evolved nicely from a homegrown podcast to a full-blown enterprise (no, that's not a reference to a Star Trek film). Now, you can download the weekly podcast, or check them out on the radio, or visit their detailed, interactive website at Or you can sit in on one of the film classes these boys teach at the University of Chicago. (Am I jealous? No. Okay, yes I am.)

Hosts Adam Kempenaar and Matty "Ballgame" Robinson have backgrounds in film, acting, and communications. They're insightful in their reviews, which run the gamut from blockbusters like Iron Man and Twilight to art films like The King's Speech, and whatever lies in between. They also do occasional marathons, a series of films by a certain director, or starring a certain actor, or fitting into a certain film category like noir. If you like a little analysis with your film viewing, Filmspotting certainly offers that.

But Adam and Matty are also "regular guys" who are able and willing to engage in self-deprecation and fun...probably the driving force behind one of the podcast's fan-favorite features, "Massacre Theater," in which Adam and Matty take a scene from a movie and do their version of it (often horribly funny) and then you get to guess which movie they just massacred. It's great fun to hear them act (sort of), and great fun to hear the fan comments too. I still remember an early Massacre Theater which featured a scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, that many listeners mistook for Rain Man. If you can believe that.

Bottom line: If you want a good source for film reviews, from guys who know what they're talking about and are still down to earth about it, then Filmspotting is a good place to go. The podcast is downloadable on iTunes and also streams from their website at, where you can also link to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. I think you'll like what you hear.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekly Writing Update (aka Keeping Me Honest)

You know, the only reason I post these writing updates is to keep myself honest, because it's very easy to pretend I'm accomplishing more with my writing than I am. But if you're reading this and you want to weigh in, go ahead. Do you accomplish the goals you set for yourself? Do you struggle, like me, to meet goals?

I'm a little further on the short story for the contest I'm entering at the end of January, and I really need to finish the draft this weekend so I can edit next week and send it in next Friday. Typical procrastinator, that's me. Do any of you have that problem? Procrastination, I mean. How do you get past it?

On a positive note, I'm at least getting more done on the blog. And that's something. I hope to become more disciplined before I die. It's a battle of inches, I'll tell you that.

Happy Friday, everyone, and ciao!

~The Chipper Muse

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Title Bout: Wayne vs. Bridges

Now that True Grit: the Remake is in theaters, we can finally settle once and for all who wins the title for the actor with the most grit: Western star John Wayne, or versatile scrapper Jeff Bridges.

Here's the breakdown:

John Wayne:  172 films
Jeff Bridges:   76 films
Advantage Wayne

Acting chops
Wayne:   One Academy Award
Bridges:  One Academy Award

Movie's originality
Wayne:   Original version
Bridges:  Remake
Advantage Wayne

Wayne:  Reasonably close to the 1968 book
Bridges:  Very close to the 1968 book
Advantage Bridges

Age and experience
Wayne:  61 years old when he filmed True Grit
Bridges:  61 years old when he filmed True Grit

Appeal of supporting cast
Wayne:  features the great Robert Duvall, but Glen Campbell considered a lame Texas Ranger, and the actress playing young "Mattie" was 20 years old
Bridges:  features Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, and the actress playing Mattie is actually a teenager in real life too
Advantage Bridges

Wayne:  6'4"
Bridges:  6'1"
Advantage Wayne

Wayne:  The Duke
Bridges:  The Dude
Advantage Wayne

The clear winner... JOHN WAYNE! Congratulations to the Duke! Now, go out and see the remake of True Grit anyway. You'll like it.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why You Should Give "The Cape" a Chance

Like any freshman TV show, The Cape is taking a little hazing. After the deep downward plunge that Heroes took after its first season, viewers and critics are pretty hard on the latest made-for-TV comic book series. But now that I’ve seen three episodes of NBC’s newest show, I have some good reasons why you (and I) need to give The Cape a chance to grow.

#1 – It’s got mystery

In three shows, we already have enough hints of a potentially rich back story for the writers to pull from. The cape itself is more versatile and powerful than it initially seemed in episode one. Exactly how much can it do? What did our hero, Vince Faraday, do in his military days? There are hints some of it was secret. Hmm. Who is Chess, where did he come from, and what kind of powers does he have? Is he even human? Who is Orwell? Could she be the daughter of Chess? Or perhaps she once worked for him before she went over to the good side? That's mystery enough to keep me interested, and there are ample possibilities to build on, if the writers use them all wisely.

#2 – It’s got attitude

Sometimes, Chess looks like a normal guy. And then he turns around and he’s rocking the snake eyes. But that’s not all. The Cape also has a killer Houdini hero outfit that has a freaky life of its own. It’s got a trippy circus with trippy acts, all of whom wear outfits I half expect to see on display during Fashion Week. I mean they're out there, but tjhey're hot too. And Vince's so-called widow is more than a drooping daisy. She goes out and gets a job with her kick-ass attitude. I like her. I like all of it. It’s like a comic book written by Green Day. Punk rock heaven!

#3 – It’s got heart

At its core, The Cape has a simple yet powerfully convincing reason for anyone to put on a costume: The hero wants to expose the bad guys and clear his own name…so he can go home to his wife and son. Whom he loves. Vince Faraday is driven by love as much as he is driven by justice, perhaps even more so. That’s why he visits his son. His fatherly advice doesn’t always sound cool. In fact, he often sounds a bit goofy, like a good dad should. But that’s what gives The Cape its heart. Vince isn’t trying to be Batman; he’s trying to be Mr. Cleaver or Mike Brady. And he comes across as one of the better father figures on TV today. That’s something to dig.

So, this season, let’s give The Cape a chance to grow on us. I think we just might be glad we did.

Copyright © 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 17, 2011

This Week's Recommendation: True Grit

Hi, all. I'm ramping up the blog. Mondays, I'll have a movie, TV, music, blog, podcast, or other entertainment-related recommendation for you. This week, I'm kicking it off with a bang.

If you haven't seen the Coen brothers remake of True Grit, I'm telling you right now: go out and see it immediately. This movie is worth the full admission price, and definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never seen the original film with John Wayne, nor have I read the book the movie is based upon. I know, I know. Beat me with wet noodles later. Anyway, I can't compare the two versions for you. But I can certainly tell you why the remake is worth seeing if you're a movie fan.

The acting is phenomenal. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn puts in a superb performance. Of course, Bridges is always good, but he's excellent here with a subtle performance that makes Cogburn's gruff personality likeable. If I didn't know what true grit was before I saw the movie, I do now. And I like it. Matt Damon was equally entertaining as a Texas Ranger, who despite his seeming braggadocio, can deliver in a pinch. And Hailee Steinfeld as the 14-year-old heroine Mattie Ross made other child actresses pale in comparison. I really can't wait to see what she does next.

The writing is excellent also. I've heard this movie stays close to the original book, and if so, then the book must be worth a read too. The characters are written so convincingly and with such effective dialogue that I easily surrendered to the movie's plot and time. The slightly archaic language is no trouble at all. In fact, it lends a kind of strength and believability to the film that I think would be lacking if the screenwriters had tried to put the language into 2011 style.

The Coen brothers are solid directors, and I think they did this film justice. There are many great shots, and honestly, I think the cinematography and direction were so good that you could easily overlook them. What I can say is, I felt like I was there in the middle of the action with these characters, and I easily could have continued watching more of their adventures for another two hours and hardly feel the time pass.

True Grit is a true gem, and I highly recommend it.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Writing Update

Hi, all. Just a quick writing update. I've got two weeks to finish a short story and submit it to the Oklahoma Writers Federation (OWFI) contest for this year. I'm trying two things. One, I'm editing down a story that is at 11,000 words but needs to be 5,000 or less to meet the contest requirements. This is a major pain, and I don't know if it will work, but it's an interesting exercise. Cutting your work like that is always hard, and in this case, it's nigh impossible because it means taking a 43 page story and cutting it to 20 pages. More than half would have to go.

The other thing I'm trying is to write a new story as fast as I can, which I can do, but it may not be as polished as I like. Then again, writing fast is a challenge for me, so this is a good exercise too. Writing is about learning, so I don't mind the work.

But I still want to win. You know? I'll let you know how it goes.

Ciao for now!
The Chipper Muse

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More Fun With Today's Headlines

Periodically, The Chipper Muse looks at headlines and discusses poor copywriting. Why MSNBC is consistently horribly bad in this arena is beyond me. But all these headlines are from today's MSNBC home page. Just to be fair, I stopped by CNN and FOX too, and I can attest that they wrote normal, sensible headlines that I couldn't possibly make fun of. Nope, it's all on MSNBC. They need better writers, and they need to pay them well. That's my guess. Anyway, have fun! And stay's cold out there.

Headline:  First dead birds, then dead crickets

Exaggeration only works if we buy into the escalation. But this headline ends on a big let-down. Crickets. Who cares about crickets? And what's next? Fleas? We have to panic about dead fleas! Run, people, run! (By the way, I suspect dead fleas will make it into the next M. Night Shyamalan movie, but you didn't hear that from me.)

Headline:  Despite doughnuts, everyone wins on 'Loser.'

Right, blame the doughnuts, the bad, bad doughnuts. That's the easy way out. I'm going to speak up on behalf of those doughnuts. Sure, they look delicious, just sitting there next to the coffee. But it's not their fault they're good-looking; they were just made that way. What do you want them to do, hide under a burqa and deny the hot goodness that nature gave them? No, if there's a problem, it's  you. You need to lay off the doughnuts.

Headline:  Germany's newest star? A cross-eyed opossum

It was only a matter of time, in our celebrity-fixated culture, before opossums started hitting the big time. You saw Lady Gaga wearing an opossum last time she did an awards show, didn't you? Well, that opossum and his posse of opossums are hitting the club scene in Europe, and they are hitting it hard. One of them is dating Britney. He may be cross-eyed, but he also writes for Conan O'Brien and is starring in Adam Sandler's next movie. This rodent is hilarious!

Headline:  No Twinkies? Vending machines go organic

As far as I'm concerned, the only purpose...the ONLY purpose...for a vending machine to exist is so that I can satisfy my craving for calorie-ridden, artery-blocking junk food when my work day is going lousy. I don't want to go over there to buy my organic apple or some peanuts grown by a collective in South America. Gimme those little powdered donuts and back off with those vegetables. Back, back, back!

Headline:  Is it your clothes that are making you look fat?

Um...yeah. It's the clothes. They're the ones making you look fat. It's got nothing to do with all those donuts and Twinkies you're pulling out of the vending machine.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Writing Update

As you may or may not know, I'm a writer. Professionally full-time for a non-profit organization. Professionally part-time as a freelancer. And not yet professionally but heading that way as a fiction/non-fiction writer of my own work, a few small pieces of which have been officially published in print that other people have read.

Being creative is a challenge. And the empty page is scary. So I'm going to stop by the blog on Fridays with a quick update on what I've been up to. Maybe it'll inspire you to create your own art. Maybe it'll simply help me be accountable to people who read my blog and will say to me, "Hey, why aren't you writing?" You have my permission to call me on it if I sound like I'm getting lazy.

This week I wrote two pages for a traditional fantasy novel I've been writing, on and off, since 2009. I love the concept for it, but wrestling the characters into a plot has been kind of a bear. That's why it is going so slowly.

I also played around with a funny fantasy novel set in the real world, but with fairies showing up to look for a long-lost changeling. This idea is going to be fun, as I plan to unleash my sense of humor in it.

The hardest part of writing fiction? For me, that's getting words on the page without worrying, "Should my characters do this or that? Maybe this is a lame plot." Etc. For me, the more I try to do an outline, the harder it is to write. So I've decided to write by the seat of my pants. This takes longer, and requires more editing, but it helps me fight the endless questioning of my decisions. So I'm going with that. We'll see how it goes.

Pop in on Sundays for a spiritual thought of the day (if I have one). And on Mondays for my blog, Twitter, book, DVD, or CD recommendation of the week. And Wednesdays, as always, I'll post a (hopefully funny) commentary on whatever strikes my fancy. As always.

Love to you all! And ciao for now!
The Chipper Muse

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Double Dream Hands

Now, I'm sure you've seen Napoleon Dynamite. And you've probably asked yourself how many people use jazz hands in their dancing. Perhaps you've secretly wanted to be a jazz hands dancer. So I'm helping you out today. I'm giving you the link to your own personal instructional video. You won't just get dream hands... you'll get double dream hands. Plus thumbs to yourself and even the butterfly. Go ahead, get your inner dance geek going this morning. You'll be glad you did!

Double Dream Hands tutorial on You Tube: